Beatty Frontier Oasis

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This book, illustrated with many fine historical photos, traces the area's history from prehistoric times to Beatty's present status as a tourism and mining center. This is the story of a group of colorful and enterprising people who built and sustained a community on the West's last frontier.

Text of Beatty Frontier Oasis

beatty:Frontier Oasis

Robert D. McCracken



by Robert D. McCracken Published in 1992 by Nye County Press Nye County Commissioners Tonopah, Nevada 89049 0 Copyright 1992 by Nye County Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Layout by Polly Christensen, Longmont, Colorado Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 90-060856 ISBN: 1-878138-55-3


o the memory of Bob Montgomery and all desert prospectors who dreamed of making the big strike


n appreciation for their unwavering support and encouragement for the Nye County Town History Project: Nye County Commissioners Robert "Bobby" N. Revert Joe S. Garcia, Jr. Richard L. Carver Barbara J. Raper Dave Hannigan Joe Maslach Cameron McRae

and Nye County Planning Consultant Stephen T. Bradhurst, Jr.

ContentsPREFACE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ONE THE LAND AND EARLY INHABITANTS Location, Terrain, and Surrounding Features Early Residents of the Beatty Area TWO EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT Expeditions of Ogden and Fremont Early Settlers The Beatty Area at the Turn of the Century THREE THE BOOM IS ON The Montgomery Brothers: The Boom Begins Shorty Harris and Ed Cross: "Lousy with Gold" Montgomery "Re-infected" with Gold Fever Shorty Loses His Claim and Rhyolite Booms FOUR BEATTY BEGINNINGS Bob Montgomery Founds Beatty Hauling Freight by Horse and Railroad J. Irving Crowell and the Chloride Cliff Mine The Crowells' Fluorspar Mine Conclusion FIVE THE LATE 1920S TO WORLD WAR II The Reverts Boost the Beatty Economy Other Economic Activity Lisle Contributes to Beatty's Transportation Economy 1 1 2 7 7 8 11 13 13 15 18 18 33 33 35 41 41 47 49 50 53 55


Scotty's Castle: "Neither of Us Pays Rent" Growth and Improvements Pioneer Educators The Beatty Indians During the 1930s Conclusion SIX FROM WORLD WAR II TO 1960 Growth and Change After World War II Motels: Beatty Puts Out the Welcome Mat The Nevada Test Site Economic Benefits of the Nevada Test Site Conclusion SEVEN THE MODERN ERA: 1960 TO THE PRESENT The Beatty Volunteer Fire Department Civic Improvements Schools, Medical Care, and Churches Formation of the Lions Club Tourism From Waitress to Blue-ribbon Businesswoman A Low-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Facility The Proposed Yucca Mountain Repository A Caring Town EIGHT THE FUTURE New Mining Techniques Current Ventures at Ladd Mountain Conclusion REFERENCES

58 64 68 69 69 71 71 74 77 80 83 85 85 86 87 88 90 91 93 93 95 97 97 99 100 101



Prefaceistorians generally consider the year 1890 as the close of the American frontier. By then, most of the western United States had been settled, ranches and farms developed, communities established, and roads and railroads constructed. The mining boomtowns, based on the lure of the overnight riches from newly developed lodes, were but a memory. Nevada was granted statehood in 1864, but examination of any map from the late 1800s shows that although much of the state was mapped and its geographical features named, a vast regionstretching from Belmont south to the Las Vegas meadows, comprising most of Nye Countyremained largely unsettled and unmapped. In 1890 most of southcentral Nevada remained very much a frontier, and it continued to be so for at least another twenty years. The great mining booms at Tonopah (1900), Goldfield (1902), and Rhyolite/ Beatty (1904) represent the last major flowerings of what might be called the Old West. Consequently, southcentral Nevada, notably Nye Countyperhaps more than any other region of the Westremains close to the American frontier. In a real sense, a significant part of the frontier can still be found there. It exists in the attitudes, values, lifestyles, and memories of residents. The frontier-like character of the area is also visible in the relatively undisturbed condition of the natural environment, most of it essentially untouched by humans. Aware of Nye County's close ties to our nation's frontier past and the scarcity of written sources on local history (especially after about 1920), the Nye County Board of Commissioners initiated the Nye County Town History Project (NCTHP) in 1987. The NCTHP is an effort to systematically collect and preserve the history of Nye County. The centerpiece of the NCTHP is a large set of interviews conducted with individuals who had knowledge of local history. The interviews provide a composite view of community and county history, revealing the flow of life and events for a part of Nevada that has heretofore been largely neglected by historians. Each interview was recorded, transcribed, and then edited lightly to preserve the language and speech patterns of those interviewed. All oral



history interviews have been printed on acid-free paper and bound and archived in Nye County libraries, Special Collections in the James R. Dickinson Library at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and at other archival sites located throughout Nevada. Collection of the oral histories has been accompanied by the assembling of a set of photographs depicting each community's history. These pictures have been obtained from participants in the oral history interviews and other present and past Nye County residents. Complete sets of these photographs have been archived along with the oral histories. The oral histories and photo collections, as well as written sources, served as the basis for the preparation of this volume on Beatty history. It is one of a series on the history of all major Nye County communities. In a real sense this volume, like the others in the NCTHP series, is the result of a community effort. Before the oral interviews were conducted, a number of local residents provided advice on which community members had lived in the area the longest, possessed and recalled information not available to others, and were available and willing to participate. Because of time and budgetary constraints, many highly qualified persons were not interviewed. Following the interviews, the participants gave even more of their time and energy: They elaborated upon and clarified points made during the taped interviews; they went through family albums and identified photographs; and they located books, dates, family records, and so forth. During the preparation of this manuscript, a number of community members were contacted, sometimes repeatedly (if asked, some would probably readily admit that they felt pestered), to answer questions that arose during the writing and editing of the manuscript. Moreover, once the manuscript was in more or less final form, each individual who was discussed for more than a paragraph or two in the text was provided with a copy of his or her portion of the text and was asked to check that portion for errors. Appropriate changes were then made. Once that stage was completed, several individuals in the Beatty area were asked to review the entire manuscript for errors of omission and commission. At each stage, this quality-control process resulted in the elimination of factual errors and raised our confidence in the validity of the contents. The author's training as an anthropologist, not a historian (although the difference between the disciplines is often probably less than some might suppose), likely has something to do with the community approach taken in the preparation of this volume. It also may contribute to the focus on the details of individuals and their families as opposed to a description of residents and their communities. Perhaps this volume, as well as a concern with variability among individuals and their contribution to a community, reflects an "ethnographic," as opposed to a "historical," perspective on local history. In the author's view, there is no such thing as "the history" of a community; there are many histories of a community. A community's history is like a sunrisethe colors are determined by a multitude of factors, such as the time of year, weather, and point of view. This history of Beatty was greatly determined by the input of those who helped produce it. If others had participated, both the subjects treated and the relative emphasis the subjects received would have been, at least, somewhat different.



Many basic facts would, of course, remain much the samenames, dates, and locations of events. But the focus, the details illustrating how facts and human beings come together, would have been different. History is, and always will remain, sensitive to perspective and impressionistic, in the finest and most beautiful sense of the word. A longer and more thoroughly referenced (though non-illustrated) companion to this volume, titled A History of Beatty, Nevada, is also available through Nye County Press. Virtually all written material contained in this volume was obtained from the longer volume. Those who desire more comprehensive referencing should consult the longer version of Beatty's history. I hope readers enjoy this history of Beatty, Nevada. The town of Beatty began as a small, unpretentious satellite of the glamorous Rhyolite. Rhyolite, the last of Nevada's great boom camps, burst on the turn-of-the-century mining scene like a little supernova; it faded almost as quickly. Rhyolite disappeared so quickly that within a few years all that remained of the city whose population is said to have peaked above 10,000 (Weight, 1972:26) was a handful of intact buildings surrounded by crumbling facades of once-elegant structures, stark reminders of faded hopes. Harold 0. and Lucile Weight called their history of Rhyolite (first edition